I am a single mom of 5 and have been a freight broker with my company for five and a half years. In July of 2008, I was transferred to Houston from California, made partner in September of 2009, and have been working from home ever since. Domestic freight has been at an all time low for the last few years so I figured I should tap into my other crafts. I can cook very well and I usually have a lot of people asking for dishes and recipes all the time. I am not in the market to make catering my primary business, but I definitely want to find ways to push my business and get it off the ground without a lot of money.
My mother was my biggest supporter and I lost her to cancer in September of 2010, so getting things moving has been hard for me. I feel the drive inside of me to keep moving, but haven’t actually put that into physical works yet. I am dedicated to providing a stable future for myself and my children. My daughters, aged 16, 14, and 13, are very helpful with their twin brothers, aged 2, and we work very well as a family, so I want to find ways to include them as well.
If you have any advice for me, it would be greatly appreciated. My family’s stability is my main priority.
I absolutely admire your strength and courage. Condolences to you for the loss of your mother; I wish you and your children the best. I can appreciate your love for cooking and wish I were near you because I love to eat!
Let’s get down to business. I know you are currently focused on catering, but that’s a labor and capital intensive business, and you said you need to keep costs low. What immediately jumped out at me is the unique—and very valuable—skill set you have as a result of working in the freight industry. Are you kidding me? You are knowledgeable enough about freight to be so valuable to a company that they asked you to move to keep working with them and have retained you as an employee even though business has slowed down. Unless a non-compete clause in your employment agreement prevents you from starting your own business in the freight industry, I think that’s the direction you should go!
Here are three steps to move forward:
Identify the best customer base and business:
There are only three segments to sell to in any business: consumers, businesses or government. You have specialized knowledge that many companies could use and perhaps even the government. Visit the U.S. Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center in your area (you can find it on the Office of Women’s Business Ownership web page) to get help, but start thinking about and researching what kind of business you could start based on your professional background.
Prepare yourself to do business with the federal government:
The federal government is mandated by Congress to spend five percent of its annual procurement budget with woman-owned small businesses. Right now that represents $179 billion in business and the government has created a set aside contract program for women entrepreneurs who are in certain industries (NAICS codes). Find out if freighting is one of their select industries and position your business for a contract. You can register and learn more about the process on the Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Program web pages.
Join the biggest chamber of commerce near where you live:
Freighting is specialized so you need to connect with the right kinds of customers and companies. Joining the largest local chamber of commerce is one of the best ways to do that. They have data about their members and contact information. You need to find mid-sized businesses with a market capitalization of $1 million or more who are having trouble with domestic freight planning, or need other help in that area that you are trained to provide. Set up an annual or multi-year contract agreement with your customers to help them develop the freighting systems and processes they need.
As far as your children, you can continue to make your business a family affair by having them complete office work (and whatever you pay them is tax deductible). It’s awesome that you are teaching them entrepreneurship, team building and a work ethic at an early age. That will serve them well in life.
Note: All advice offered in this column is for general information only. Felicia Joy and The Atlanta Post are indemnified against any and all related claims. Always seek the advice of licensed professionals before making business decisions.
Felicia Joy is a nationally recognized entrepreneur who created $50 million in value for the various organizations and companies she served in corporate America before launching her business enterprise. She is often called on to discuss the ins and outs of entrepreneurial success and has appeared on CNN, FOX and in other national press. Felicia operates Ms. CEO Inc., a training and development company that helps women entrepreneurs achieve more success, faster — as well as Joy Group International, LLC, a business development and consulting firm. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/feliciajoy.